Not only do prosecutors determine if the death penalty will be sought in a trial, they also have the ability to eliminate African Americans and other people of color as prospective jurors, despite the fact that it is unconstitutional to strike jurors solely based on their race. This practice greatly increases the likelihood that an African American defendant will be sentenced to death.1
- A 2001 study of death penalty cases showed that 25% of the juries had no black members and around 70% had two or fewer. 2
- According to the Capital Jury Project, “a death sentence becomes three times more likely for an African American defendant accused of killing a white victim where the jury has five or more white male jurors on it than for an African American defendant who draws fewer such jurors.”3
- In 2003 “At least one in five of the African Americans executed since 1977 had been convicted by all-white juries, in cases which displayed a pattern of prosecutors dismissing prospective African American jurors during jury selection.”4
- Between 1983 and 1993, prosecutors in Philadelphia voted to remove 52% of potential African American jurors while trying to remove only 23% of other potential jurors.5
- Notes from a North Carolina prosecutor show that, in making their list of jury strikes, he/she classified one potential juror as a “black wino” and identified another potential juror as coming from a “respectable black family”. Under questioning they could produce no evidence that they indicated which white potential jurors came from a respectable white family.
1 http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/death-penalty-black-and-white-who-lives-who-dies-who-decides#Racial Bias Permeates the System